Saskia Popescu

Senior Infection Prevention Epidemiologist (HonorHealth), Adjunct Professor (University of Arizona)

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Know that for every person doubting you, there's one who believes in you.

What do you do?

I do infectious disease epidemiology in healthcare, meaning that I track outbreaks and try to reduce disease transmission during medical care. I also focus on biopreparedness, which means that I work to help hospitals prepare and respond to biological threats, whether that's an outbreak like COVID-19 or an act of bioterrorism.

Why did you choose this field?

I've been interested in infectious diseases since I was handed The Hot Zone as a kid! From writing to the CDC to dressing up like a pathologist for Halloween, I was interested in all things outbreaks. I interned with the local public health department in their bioterrorism division and started to understand the role of epidemiology and preparedness, which helped guide my career. My family is all engineers, so while I appreciated the technical nature of things, the social dynamics of disease transmission really drew my curiosity and felt like a challenge we're constantly facing.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

Joining more studies, interning with more public health officials, and doing research to help understand all sections of public health response.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love that every day brings some bit of new knowledge. Whether that's tacit or a knew study. It's a world constantly in pursuit of new and more helpful information, working to enhance our lives and capabilities to solve problems.

Best advice for next generation?

There are roadblocks and frustrations ahead but there's also an amazing group of people who will support and nourish your curiosity. Find those people and push through the frustrating ones. Know that for every person doubting you, there's one who believes in you and work to make sure you're also that person for some one else. Failure is growth and let it help drive you and teach you.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

“I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy.” - Marie Curie

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